Volume XI, Issue 32 ~ August 7-13, 2003

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In Gambling, Maryland’s Wheel of Fortune
Keeps Turning

Imagine seeing these signs as you’re driving through Chesapeake Country: Tacos and Casino; Car Wash Casino; Get Gas, Play Slots.

You probably think we’re making this up. We’re not. These are among the dozens of signs we noticed vacationing out West, in South Dakota and Montana, where gambling is so wide open that slots emporiums line most any thoroughfare.

Throughout the Midwest and parts of the South, you’ll find glittering riverboats with full-blown casinos featuring blackjack, poker-roulette and more. Same goes on tribal lands, where casinos have become the cultural centers of many reservations.

We’re not big fans of gambling; there’s too much wasted energy and influence-peddling involved for our taste. Nor do we make a practice of tilting at windmills, which is to say that we believe the stars are lined up in such a way that gambling will be coming to Maryland soon.

So we had all better start paying attention, including deciding where our own tolerances lie.

This summer, the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee is conducting a study that may serve as a benchmark when the gambling debate resumes in earnest, which it will.

In case you missed it, House Speaker Michael Busch of Anne Arundel County raised the ante by suggesting that the state of Maryland run gambling, as it does the lottery, and lease the casino operations to low-bidders. In Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s proposal earlier this year, racetracks would buy licensing rights to operate slot machines at select tracks.

State control is not far-fetched: that’s how the Canadian government and several states have dealt with the issue to assure that the public and the bettors get the best deal.

Then again, do you want to be part owner of a casino? We can’t help but think that Busch, an avowed opponent of gambling, has something up his sleeve. He felt the sting of criticism when he almost single-handedly blocked Ehrlich’s proposal for slots at racetracks.

In hindsight, Busch should be praised because it’s a certainty that the state can do better than the 42 percent for Maryland’s education fund proposed by the governor.

Then again, you may not want gambling in any way, shape or form — video poker parlors, slot stables, street-corner casinos or riverboats.

Whatever your view, be warned that with gambling, out of sight is not out the minds of those making decisions.

It may be the season of surf and sand, but the roulette wheel of Maryland’s future keeps on turning.



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Last updated July 31, 2003 @ 2:45am